Airbus announces Chinese partnership, opens student competition

By Erin Voegele | September 05, 2012

Airbus recently announced a partnership with China-based Tsinghua University to complete a sustainability analysis of potential biojet feedstocks in China and to determine the most effective ways to support the development of a biomass value chain to expedite the commercialization of biobased aviation fuels. The development of this type of value chain in China is especially important since the country is home to the world’s fastest-growing aviation market.

According to Airbus, Phase I of the partnership will be managed by Airbus and focus on identifying feedstocks that comply with ecological, economic and social sustainability criteria. During Phase I Airbus will work closely with Tsinghua University and a group of European institutions. The second phase of the partnership will aim narrow down the list of potential feedstocks. Algae and waste cooking oil are two of the feedstocks that the group will analyze.

Information released by Airbus noted that the sustainability analysis is expected to be complete in early 2013. Once the analysis is complete, the group will focus on scaling-up the production of biobased aviation fuel using the identified feedstocks.

"We are grateful to Airbus support for the project," said Professor Zhang Xiliang, director of the Institute of Energy, Environment and Economy at Tsinghua University and project manager. "The project will help us improve the understanding of the nature of aviation biofuels commercialization in China, identify the opportunities and challenges, and evaluate the possibility of social, economic, market and technology change and its cost, obstacles and challenges. We believe that the research will have positive effects on energy conservation, emissions reduction and climate change addressing in Chinese aviation sector."

Airbus also recently made an announcement regarding its annual Fly Your Ideas global competition for students. In August, the aircraft manufacturer announced that the registration deadline has been set for Nov. 30, with final judging scheduled for June 2013. The Fly for Ideas program is backed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Teams of three to five college students are encouraged to find solutions to solve one of six key challenges facing the aviation industry, one of which is energy. One option under the energy theme encourages students to investigate methods to identify sustainable, renewable sources of fuel or increase source harvesting.

According to Airbus, the challenge is open to college students from any academic discipline. The teams are judged in three rounds by a panel of Airbus and industry experts. The winning team is awarded a €30,000 ($37,800) prize. The runner-up team will be awarded €15,000.